20

I have been told never to play the Sicilian. It is a very complicated opening that even grandmasters aren't ever able to analyze and play well enough. But why, I ask?

  • 4
    A little background info might help out here. Do you have a sense of your own level of playing strength (e.g. a rating)? And who has told you never to play the Sicilian? – ETD Sep 21 '13 at 14:24
  • 1
    Garry Kasparov used to play the Sicilian, but he knew the Steinitz quote: Chess is not for timid souls. – Fred Feb 20 '17 at 18:31
  • "I have been told never to play the Sicilian" how can this be true when the Sicilian is just the most played response to 1.e4? – gented Oct 10 '17 at 13:43

10 Answers 10

23

Good heavens. Play it!

The Sicilian is not a defense for the lazy or defensive player - the Black side will need to be booked up, tactically sharp, and more than anything will need to understand why it works, and how to make it work.

Regarding that GMs can't play it, that's nonsense. It's a deadly tool in their arsenal.

This opening's hypermodern ideas eschew some well-established 'rules' including immediate control of the center. It encourages an asymmetric game that reduces the chance for a draw. In many variations, black sacrifices the exchange on c3 in order to gain time and break white's center.

In the Sicilian, black frequently loses quickly or wins long.

Here's an example from 2013 of Anand with the black side taking apart 2716-rated Arkadij Naiditsch. According to 365chess.com, this is an ECO B52, the "Canal-Sokolsky attack". As you can see from this game, the Sicilian may not be the best choice for the timid.


[fen ""]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Bd7 4. Bxd7+ Qxd7 5. c4 Nf6 6. Nc3 g6 7. d4 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Bg7 9. O-O Nc6 10. Nde2 Qe6 11. Nd5 Qxe4 12. Nc7+ Kd7 13. Nxa8 Qxc4 14. Nc3 Rxa8 15. Bg5 e6 16. Re1 Nd5 17. Nxd5 Qxd5 18. Qxd5 exd5 19. Rad1 h6 20. Bc1 d4 21. Rd3 Rc8 22. Rb3 b6 23. Kf1 Ne5 24. Ra3 a5 25. b4 Rc2 26. bxa5 bxa5 27. Rxa5 Nd3 28. Ra7+ Kc6 29. Rxf7 Nxe1 30. Kxe1 Rxc1+ 31. Kd2 Rg1 32. Rxg7 Rxg2 33. Ke1 Rxh2 34. Rxg6 Rh1+ 35. Kd2 h5 36. Rh6 h4 37. a4 h3 38. a5 h2 39. a6 Kc7 40. Rh7+ Kb8 41. Ke2 d3+ 42. Kd2 Ka8 43. Rh5 Ka7 44. Rh6 d5 45. Rh8 Kxa6 46. Rh6+ Kb5 47. Rh8 Kc4 48. Rc8+ Kd4 49. Rh8 Ke4 0-1

Just for fun, here's Tigran Petrosian, the Patron Saint of Positional Players, dismantling Boris Spassky. This is a B42 Sicilian, Kan variation. (I like to mention such games because it's easy to get into the habit of thinking of some players as purely positional, or some as purely tactical players. All GMs are competent in all aspects of the game.)

It's the 1st game of the 1969 world championship. Again, we see a long game here. Petrosian would lose the black side of a Sicilian Dragon to Spassky later in the same match, and it would be over in under 30 moves.

[fen ""]
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Nc6 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.O-O d5 8.Nd2 Nf6 9.Qe2 Be7 10.b3 O-O 11.Bb2 a5 12.f4 g6 13.Rad1 Nd7 14.c4 a4 15.f5 exf5 16.exf5 Bf6 17.Bxf6 Nxf6 18.Qf2 axb3 19.axb3 Ra2 20.fxg6 fxg6 21.h3 Qe7 22.Qd4 c5 23.Qf4 Bb7 24.Rde1 Qg7 25.Qe3 d4 26.Qe6+ Qf7 27.Qe2 Re8 28.Qf2 Rxe1 29.Qxe1 Qe8 30.Qxe8+ Nxe8 31.Be4 Rxd2 32.Bxb7 Nd6 33.Bd5+ Kg7 34.b4 cxb4 35.c5 Nf5 36.c6 Rc2 37.g4 Nd6 38.Rf4 d3 39.Rd4 d2 40.Bb3 Rxc6 41.Rxd2 Ne4 42.Rd7+ Kf6 43.Rxh7 Rc1+ 44.Kg2 Nc5 45.Bf7 b3 46.g5+ Kxg5 47.h4+ Kf6 48.h5 Rc2+ 49.Kf3 b2 50.Ba2 gxh5 51.Rxh5 Rc1 52.Rh6+ Ke5 53.Rb6 Na4 54.Re6+ Kd4 55.Re4+ Kc5 56.Rxa4 Ra1 0-1
8

There are some high level trainers who suggest avoiding lines like the Rauzer (a line in the Sicilian) or the Gruenfeld for new beginners, suggesting that the ideas behind these openings are just beyond the comprehension of new players, BUT...

Chess learning is known to centre very much around patterns, and these patterns need to become instilled in your subconscious mind.

One very rapid way to learn the basics of an opening is to download a database of high level games from the opening line in question (this is easy to do using 365Chess or other online resources, (TWIC gives good updates, but you will have to sort to opening later), then open the file in a (free) database product like Chessbase Reader (lite) or Jose (Chess for All on your smartphone). Now you simply flip the board to the side you want to play and starting clicking your way (rapidly) through the games (I like to do this for a hero, such as Svidler playing the Gruenfeld). The point here is not to think too deeply, but just to see the opening evolve again and again rapidly on your screen. You will see that you DO start to see the main ideas of the line. (I do pause if there was a neat tactic that I couldn't absorb rapidly, and play that a few times through, so as to build that idea into my mind as well; sometimes these are thematic for the opening, and sometimes they are just increasing one's mental fluidity.)

Once this last thing starts to happen in your mind, then it makes sense to study the opening much more slowly and carefully, learning concrete move orders and what-not.

A beginner who follows this route WILL quickly accelerate their understanding of ANY opening system. I think even Silman said that (essentially by hand), this is how he came to understand chess more deeply than the average bear.

7

The Sicilian is a very "sharp" opening that involves major complications for BOTH sides. The result is that the better player will almost always win.

If you play it as a beginner, you will "always" lose, initially. That's why someone told you "never" to play it. There are somewhat easier ways to get draws with other openings.

That is, until you get to become a "good" player. Then you can use this opening to outplay a lot of Whites who will be weaker than you.

Playing the Sicilian (and taking your lumps) is one way to get better, faster.

4

The Sicilian has many sharp lines and many many variants, more than any other defence to the King's Pawn opening 1.e4. This is, in a nutshell, why it is difficult to master.

Yet the idea that beginners, or players below master level, shouldn't play it is dubious at best. From a purely competitive point of view, if your opponent is about your same strength (s)he will have your very same difficulties playing it from the White side; if your opponent is much stronger than you it is very likely that you're doomed no matter what opening you choose.

In fact, choosing an opening repertoire cannot be based only on the number of lines or ideas to memorize, but also the "feeling" that one about certain positions and certain plans. Even if a beginner is not as sharp and experienced as a master, certainly may find more "natural" and easy to play certain lines and not others. Thus, I believe that is a good idea even for a beginner to try to "experiment" with a good variety of openings (studying grandmaster games and playing them himself) in order to find those for which he has a special feeling.

4

Whomever told you that should not be advising anyone about anything! The Sicilian is interesting and sharp. Play it, study it, love it and hate it. And do not listen to those people ever again!

2

This is a very weird statement. IMHO.

The only thing that I can tell you is that back when I was in the University the school team's coach, who was an IM, insisted in that the "advanced" beginners and low intermediates would learn the Sicilian Dragon since it is a very dynamic opening and there are lots of tactical themes happening all the time so it was good for them.

Some food for thought :)

0

This is a sharp openning with a long well studied variables in "chess theory", some of them as dragon, pelikan, schveniguen, etc with more than 20 moves known.

So if you are playing with someone with experience in the theory of this opening is better to avoid or going far from the main lines or variables.

The theory says that this is a "two edges sword", because of the fact that white moves in the king side and black on the queen side, is a unbalance openning, given options to both sides to attack, in the most games the winner is who can reach the rival king first.

White will attack on the king side mean while black do in the queen side, in the most aggresive variables, white castle's in queen side with a bayonet attack or moving h4-h5-h6 or sacrificing this pawn in order to open the "h" column for the rook and black using b5-a6 pawns and using C column for the rook, where in most cases is sacrificed in c3 for knight to attack the whites king.

0

Sicilian is hard to play for the below points .

  • Either the Black Player still an Amateur does not understand Counter-Attacking Chess.
  • Theory is just too long and ultra-sharp lines are difficult to memorize.
  • Many Variations of Sicilian just coerce with each other and you can not keep yourself to one line . Eg Najdorf can transition to Schevengien/Kan/Taimanov etc .
  • Black usually has to face K-side Attack very early from White and to defend against it the Play in Center and Q-side may gets extinguished and Black has to defend against powerful Sacs and defend precisely.
  • Black has to sometimes go on a material deficit as like Exchange Sacrifice in Sicilian Dragon and where R*N on c3 has to be done which many Players below 2000 Elo would like to condemn and focus on Activity .
  • You need to understand high level chess to understand Sicilian which many Players do not seem to understand.
0

It makes absolutely no sense to avoid it. Play it, learn it, study it, and understand it. You'll want it in your arsenal eventually anyway. It's not going to hurt you.

Maybe you wouldn't want to try it at on OTB tournament for the first year or two. But you can start by studying up on all three of the major families of at least the Open Sicilian, 2...e6, 2...d6, 2...Nc6, and their 11 main variations, over the course of a year or two, and playing dozens or hundreds of harmless online games with them.

When you get good, and your rating is getting fairly impressive, and you feel comfortable with it, you can delve deeper. Imagine if you only started the opening 10 years from now, from scratch? Now imagine if you started now, how much farther ahead you'll be with it in 10 years.

There just isn't much reason not to learn something as early as possible. When you're older, and time is running out, you'll have had more experience with it than otherwise.

-1

I can suggest you from my experience of playing the Sicilian for 8 years now, to avoid it for the first year of your 'starting chess life' and slowly begin to read and assimilate.

I am a practitioner of e4 - c5. I'm finding it still hard to deal with the own weakness of d6. I am fide elo 1140 only. So take up this arsenal sooner.

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